Living by Someone Else's Rules
Finding your Opportunities
Dresses are pretty, let me braid your hair. Oh you look so nice all dressed up - the boys will be falling over themselves. Cross your legs, it's ladylike. Don't swear, you sound like a sailor. Be careful when you go out, don't wear anything too revealing - you heard what happened to that young girl.
She's such a lovely girl, you must be so proud. She's going to make some man very lucky one day.
Remember, a man is supposed to be the provider for his family. Find a nice man, with a stable job, settle down. You're going to be such a great Mom. How many kids do you want when you're older? Only children get so lonely without someone to play with.
Boys will be boys. Self respect means not sleeping around. Family is more important than career. Neither your Dad or I went to University though, so you'll be doing that.
These were the messages I heard growing up. The patriarchy saturated my childhood. It groomed me for a life of wifehood, motherhood... loving everyone but me.
Even if we disregard the blatant heteronormative narrative that these messages delivered (I'm a 90's babies, and my parents have grown with the times, but that doesn't change the wrongness of the times), I was raised to never discover myself.
And I didn't. I met an amazing man - who I'm still married to, 10 years later, and who happens to be a feminist who was very much the catalyst for my challenging the narrative) and married at 21. I had one child - I will not have another, at the age of 29.
My whole childhood I had planned on being a stay at home Mom until my son was in school - I lasted 2 years. He's in daycare now and I'm going back to work.
Slowly, oh so slowly, I'm peeling back the layers of what I want, what makes me the person I am, and am shifting my life to fit that version of myself.
I'm grateful that I found a husband who is all in when it comes to women's rights and who encourages me to push myself in terms of self fulfillment. If you're wondering why I got married so young if I have a feminist husband, that was all me. He would have been perfectly happy waiting another 3 or 4 years, but I was insistent because I viewed that ring as an accomplishment. Now I view my ring as a promise, both to him, and from him to me.
There are so many aspects to myself that I'm discovering, it's like Christmas everyday. I find spiritual peace in yoga. I find meditative calm in abandoned buildings - which as it happens, I happen to love, apparently. I also find it in fields and on swing sets in the moment you're suspended in air, between the graceful upwards motion and the rush of coming back down. I'm a bookworm, a nature lover, a risk taker, firm in my principles, bending in my opinions.
I'm someone I'd like to know. For the first time in my life. I've shucked the shackles of my childhood teachings, and have embraced the fullness of the beauty of being a grown woman.
There is still so much of me left to discover - will I write that book that I dream of authoring? Will I jump out of that plane that part of me is itching to do - and part of me is reminding me that planes function perfectly well when you remain inside. There are so many wonderful choices and opportunities that lie ahead of me, beyond wifehood, beyond motherhood.
Yet I will remain a steadfast wife - not because of some patriarchal ideal, but because I love my husband. I will remain a loving and grateful mother, not because it was thrust upon me, but because I look upon my son and feel so much pride and a sense of overwhelming, unconditional love that I never thought was possible.
I am a beautiful combination of the choices I have made and the possibilities before me. I love discovering who I am amidst the consequences of playing by someone else's rules - and how they shape those relationships for the better. Every layer I peel back, every new thing I discover, every quirk, curiosity or fascination, leads me to self love.
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